Author Archives: impact

Royal Caribbean’s impressive Independence of the Seas

Fabulous facilities on board Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas has had a fab new refit

We were recently privileged to take a look around the new Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s popular ship. After a multi-million pound facelift the ship is looking great, with plush new staterooms, a virtual reality bungie experience, hair-raising slides, an amazing lazer tag game and much more. The entertainment was as always fantastic, with a brilliant ice show and the wonderful Grease.

Impact Writers has been working with the team on Royal Caribbean’s new website, with much more information on all the out-of-this-world destinations that the ships travel too. Happy holidays on board!

W.J. French & Son wins national award for 8th generation MD

Caroline French at the awards ceremony

It could be a challenge to take over a family business that has been running successfully for over 200 years, and to be the first woman to do so.

But Caroline French, the Managing Director of W.J. French & Son, a specialist independent shoe retailer based in Southampton, is celebrating with a prestigious national award win.

W.J. French & Son was named Independent Family Footwear Retailer of the Year in the national Footwear Industry Awards in Birmingham on February 19.  As the 8th generation of her family to continue in the business, Caroline is thrilled that the hard work of the company’s staff has been recognised.

“It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to take over a family business that has been in Southampton since 1803,” said Caroline, a former City Chartered Surveyor, who took over as MD from her father Richard French two years ago when he retired.

“But the staff are incredibly hard-working and loyal and that has been a tremendous help. Our manager has been with the business for 51 years and the average length of service is 20 years, so that’s a lot of shoe-fitting knowledge and expertise.

“I’m the first woman to be running the family business but my grandmother, great- grandmother and great-great-grandmother all worked alongside their husbands, either in the office or on the shop floor. I have known many of the staff members since I was young so it is like working with a big extended family.”

W.J. French & Son is located in a three-storey shop based in Bedford Place and stocks a large product range of quality footwear in many different sizes and widths. The company prides itself on excellent, one-to-one customer service and specialises in shoe-fitting and repair for adults and children and also in fitting shoes for those with ‘problem’ feet, such as narrow or wide feet or for people with health issues such as diabetes.

It is one of the oldest shoe shops in England and can trace its roots back to 1794, when Francis French began his apprenticeship as a shoemaker. By 1803 he had become a master shoemaker and started his own business in Kingsland Place, Southampton. In 1890 his son William purchased the current shop in Bedford Place, which was extended into the adjoining properties in 1964.

Caroline is passionate about improving foot health with stylish shoes for children and adults and aims to maintain the high standards set by her father and grandfather. She has already made some improvements during her first year at the helm, such as an improved website and new stock control and cash desk systems, but says that exceptional service to customers is still key.

“We have loyal customers who have been coming to us for generations, who understand how important it is to have shoes that are not only fashionable but also well fitting. We strive for excellent customer service at all times so it is a real honour to have received this award and to gain recognition for our work. This is down to the hard work of all our staff and the support of the loyal families who shop with us.”

Pumpkins, prizes and poo at the Chestnut Centre


Keeping the kids occupied this autumn may seem daunting, but the Chestnut Centre Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park has a few tricks up its sleeve for a happy Halloween and a horror free half term. Little wizards and witches can go wild with this season’s special events – starting on Saturday 22nd October with an autumnal animal Poo Trail.

Back by popular demand, the trail – which runs until Saturday 29th October – challenges children to match up different doo-doos with the right creatures, for special prizes. Continue reading

Join the STEAM-powered Big Draw at Battersea Park Zoo


Join us at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo next week for The Big Draw, a STEAM powered festival bringing together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.

This year’s theme for the popular Big Draw art event is STEAM, representing the campaign to give the arts parity with other subjects and paying tribute to our industrial past.

Animals and conservation are the focus of the Big Draw at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo next week, on Saturday 29th October, between 11am and 3.30pm, as the Zoo’s artist in residence Beatrice von Preussen takes children through a fun day of critters, crayons and creativity. Continue reading

Harmony of the Seas – world’s biggest cruise ship from Royal Caribbean


The bionic bar - order or create cocktails on an iPad and the robots make it

The bionic bar – order or create cocktails on an iPad and the robots make it

Nightlife, live music, bars and restaurants on the Royal Promenade

Nightlife, live music, bars and restaurants on the Royal Promenade

The Ultimate Abyss - thrilling slide down 10 floors of the ship

The Ultimate Abyss – thrilling slide down 10 floors of the ship

Sumptuous interiors throughout the ship

Sumptuous interiors throughout the ship

So I’ve just returned from my first ever cruise and what do I think? This was a mini pre-cruise for the media and the travel industry, so not necessarily typical, but ‘amazing’, ‘surprising’ and ‘stunning’ are some of the adjectives I would use to describe Harmony of the Seas, not least because of the sheer size of the ship, the wide range of facilities on board and the number of attentive staff needed to make it all function.

Cruises and big ships have their detractors, but there’s no denying that many people adore cruising, and the market is growing. Royal Caribbean has gone out of its way to make its ships, and this one in particular, attractive to families, and the facilities for children, teenagers and parents are indeed brilliant. Teens have their own games arcade, a (non-alcoholic) bar area where they can chill out, plus DJ mixing desks, table tennis, football and basketball courts plus all the facilities open to everyone, such as a free ice-cream machine, Flowrider surfing areas, Perfect Storm waterslides, Ultimate Abyss 10-storey slide, swimming pools, whirlpools, ice-skating rink and the rest.  Continue reading